Downtown pig slaughterhouse on hold, residents breathe easier

A pig slaughterhouse that has operated for almost 100 years in downtown Toronto has for now ceased operations, a move causing temporary relief for residents who have long complained about the abattoir's odour.

Unclear whether Quality Meats closure is temporary or permanent

Quality Meat Packers has been processing pigs for almost 100 years but has, for now at least, ceased operations. Residents who live near the plant have complained about the smell. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A pig slaughterhouse in operation for almost 100 years in downtown Toronto has for now ceased operations, a move causing temporary relief for nearby residents who have long complained about the abattoir's odour.

Quality Meat Packers — which employs 700 people — has applied for court protection from its creditors.

Located at Tecumseth and Niagara Streets since 1916, the plant processes more than 6,000 hogs on a typical operating day.

Once situated in an industrial area of the city, the plant is now at the heart of a booming downtown district that has undergone extensive condo development in recent years.

Smell doesn't sit right with residents

The close co-habitation of abattoir and condo dwellers has led to complaints about the smell from the plant. During sultry summer days when the winds are still, the odour can be overpowering. But the slaughterhouse predates the condos, so King West residents can only wait and hope the pig plant will one day move elsewhere.

The plant and the smell it generates is a constant topic of conversation inside the dog enclosure at Stanley Park, located across the street from the plant.

Resident Betsy Gray told CBC's Mary Wiens that dog walkers in the area are often disheartened to see truck after truck loaded with pigs — their snouts protruding through the side panels — roll toward their fate at the plant.

"I'm a vegan," she said. "Sometimes the trucks are backed up on the street and all you hear are these poor pigs screaming."

Mark Pesci has mixed feelings about the plant. He visits Stanley Park up to five times a day to walk his dog and though he doesn't care for the smell, he also feels for the Quality Meats employees.

"Every spring, just as the flowers grow, so does the scent of blood and fresh kills coming from the slaughterhouse," he said. "Some days, you don't notice it. The issue is the days you can't help but notice it."

"People need to work and I wouldn't want people to lose their jobs," he added.

Metro Morning spoke on Monday with Ron Davidson of the Canadian Meat Council. He wasn't aware of the issues affecting Quality Meats, but spoke generally about the troubles affecting the pork industry.

He said farms in Canada are producing fewer hogs, a move that has pushed up pork prices.  When prices rise, demand for the product can fall, which puts pressure on processing plants.

"Processors do not have any control over how much consumers are willing to pay," he told host Matt Galloway. "They have to recover the price they pay for the hogs, plus fixed costs."

It's not clear whether the shutdown at Quality Meats is temporary or permanent. The company has said it does not want to speak to reporters about the future of the plant.

With files from CBC's Mary Wiens


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